crater lake oregon

The pristine view of Crater Lake, beginning to be filled in by smoke.

The drive to see the vaunted Crater Lake National Park was interrupted before it got started. We'd stayed north of the park the night before and planned on getting an early start to see the lake before the sun was too high. Unfortunately the drought in the West had other plans. The route into the north entrance of the park was closed due to wild fires and so we had to drive an extra 70 miles out of our way to enter the park from the south.

If we'd been smart, we'd have checked the Park's web site before we headed out. The National Park Service is actually really good about posting relevant news about the park on their sites.

But, if a little detour is the worst thing that happened to us, that's not a bad day.

So, about two hours after the planned time (we were also held up by road construction) we got into the park and headed around the rim road drive. We'd planned to do a hike or two on the paths that lead to various vistas of the lake, but the smoke from the fire dissuaded from trying. Just driving around the rim eventually had our eyes and throats burning from the smoke. Walking up and down hills didn't seem like a very good use of our precious lung tissue.

But, when we first got to the rim, the smoke hadn't yet invaded the crater itself too much. The opposite rim was a little hazy, but you could still make it out and the azure water was as yet undimmed by the haze.

In the picture of Wizard Island in Crater Lake, you can see the white in the background just above the rim of the crater. That's the smoke from the fires burning to the northwest of the park–the fires that had closed the road. This photo was taken just after we arrived.

But in the time it took us to drive the rim, the smoke had moved into the crater itself, and the lovely blue tableau was now becoming a dingy gray. I stopped shooting and just looked. And mourned for the West. It's getting really bad around here.

fires nw of crater lake national park

From a distance, Crater Lake National Park, on fire.

As we wound around to the west we saw two Forest Service fire trucks pulled off the road, looking to the northwest. Two rangers were standing by the side of the road, talking on their radios about road closures with their compatriots below, who were occupied with what we were now looking at.

You can see a list here of all the United States National Parks, with links to our stories about the ones we've visited.

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